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Without question, COOL HAND LUKE ($29) is one of Paul Newmanís finest achievements as an actor. Newman is the title character, a man who lives by his own rules, a nonconformist, who cannot be broken by the system even when he is imprisoned for cutting the heads off of parking meters and sentenced to a chain gang. Luke is the kind of man who will not admit defeat even when he is defeated. Luke continues to try and escape the chain gang, even after heís subjected to the kind of physical punishment that would surely break a better man.

COOL HAND LUKE is an emotionally uplifting film because it shows the indomitability of the human spirit. Newman brings a quiet resolve, a sense of humor and a touch of irony to the role of Luke, which allows his character to accept his lot in life without ever really accepting it. George Kennedy won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role of "Dragline", the unofficial leader of the prisoners and Lukeís staunchest supporter. Strother Martin also turns in another memorable supporting performance as the Captain, who tries to break Luke after his repeated escape attempts. Martinís iconic line "what we got here isÖ failure to communicate" has become woven into the fabric of American cinema and has lost its none of its potency- even after more than four decades. The top-notch cast also includes JD Cannon, Robert Drivas, Lou Antonio, Jo Van Fleet, Clifton James, Dennis Hopper, (Harry) Dean Stanton, Wayne Rogers, Ralph Waite, Anthony Zerbe and an uncredited Joe Don Baker.

Warner Home Video has made COOL HAND LUKE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is top of the line for a forty-plus year old film, and does wonderful justice to Conrad Hallís truly beautiful cinematography. The image is very crisp and produces excellent definition. Fine details arenít at the level of newer films, but they still impress all the same. Colors are warm and fairly vibrant. Flesh tones can have a sun burnt quality, which is accurate. Blacks are usually deep and inky, while the whites very crisp. Contrast is quite smooth. Shadow detail isnít stellar, but it is certainly very good. The film elements from which COOL HAND LUKE has been transferred do show some very minor blemishes. Film grain is ever present, but it is usually a fine veneer that maintains the very organic quality of the presentation.

COOL HAND LUKE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel Dolby Digital monaural 192kbps soundtrack. Most of the background hiss and other audible anomalies have been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the movie with a generally smooth and reasonably pleasant sound. Fidelity has some of the expected limitation for a film of this vintage, but Lalo Schifrinís musical score holds up well enough. Dialogue is well reproduced and maintains complete intelligibility. French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese language tracks are also encoded onto the disc. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese and Swedish.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few supplements. Film Historian & Paul Newman Biographer Eric Lax is on hand to provide a running Audio Commentary. A Natural Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke is a half hour retrospective with the production team, as well as some of principal actors. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the supplements.

COOL HAND LUKE remains a potent piece of cinema as well as Paul Newmanís finest achievements as an actor. Warnerís Blu-ray presentation is truly excellent example of how good classic films can look in high definition. Highly recommended.



Cool Hand Luke [Blu-ray] (1967)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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